Intro: Please note that if there is (or has recently been) a life or death medical crisis within your family / close circle of friends, perhaps, it’d be best not to read any further. As for all others who’ve clicked by, the following account has been culled from my family’s personal History Book; backdated to this very day, 33 years ago…
My father, having feared the worst, had delayed colon cancer surgery for at least half a decade.
September 6, 1988 had no sooner arrived than another of his medical issues, congestive heart failure, had worsened; thereby necessitating two ambulance rides, initially, to our local hospital, ultimately, to a much better staffed and equipped, out of town facility.
At that point, whenever his internist had made his rounds, he had tried his very best to coax my dad into making a more gutsy move; the good doctor saying (words to the effect),
“Seeing how your heart situation has been stabilized and you’re already hospitalized, anyway, why not schedule your long overdue operation?”
And so, September 20, 1988 became “The Day”.
However, no sooner had his surgeon begun the procedure, than he had realized the metastasizing tumors had left him little choice but to wave the white flag.
Further complicating matters, my dad had intentionally left blank his pre-surgical paperwork’s advanced directives section, and his resultant, by default, Full Code status meant that were anything to go wrong, his doctors were required to do everything humanly possible to keep their patient alive.
And everything did go wrong! Big Time Wrong! In essence, my father had died on the operating table; with only hospital heroics wresting his lifeless body from the Grim Reaper’s cold clammy clutches.
Within the hour, his surgeon, in no mood to mince his words, informed me that the best, most merciful thing that could’ve possibly happened to my dad, that morning, would’ve been his dying.
Nonetheless, for the next six weeks, my family and I kept on wallowing in our shared, irrational belief that, if given a chance, our family patriarch would overcome his ventilator dependence and rally, sufficiently, to go home.
- The Good News: My dad, albeit briefly, was able to breathe, anew, on his own.
- The Bad News: He had emerged from his ordeal in a horrifying state of mind.
His only sounds, which even remotely resembled sentience / human communication were his yawns.
One of his nurses confided that the phalanx of ICU physicians had formulated two possible diagnoses. Either the cancer had metastasized to my dad’s brain or his likely cancerous liver could not even begin to process the dozens of dangerously interacting pharmaceuticals; all of which had rendered him, for lack of a better phrase, stoned out of his mind.
Well, my dad did finally make it back home, but, alas, this was not his Earthly home.
And such an outcome had only been feasible once his exasperated surgeon had prevailed upon us to make one helluva gutsy move. He had encouraged us (my word choice) to see the light; to morph his patient from Full to No Code; to permit my dad to go into the light (as it were).
Truth told, hospital heroics had been the ONE and ONLY reason my father had managed to stay alive; i.e., if being tethered to an ICU bed, wigged out on Rx drugs and ventilator dependent even qualifies as being alive.
What all of this had actually meant was that we, his family, could’ve picked and chosen any day for him to die. And it’s difficult not to consider September 20, 1988, as the day my father had actually died.
My parting wisdom…
What life and death taught me, 33 years ago, today, is no less applicable today.
- To varying degrees, major surgery is never free of inherent risks.
- O.R. bound patients must always convey their advanced directives.
- Full Code is for patients with a good chance for a complete recovery.
- Full Code for those with poor chances, can lead to a quasi-living Hell!
Stay Publicly / Properly Masked!
Stay Safe at Home!